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History Made In Greece
Rugby League made its way to Athens when Greece held out a determined and much improved Serbia to win 44-26.
Greece played the game with no less than eight local-based players, with many of them playing only their second ever game of 13-a-side football.
The Greek Titans, captained by Michael Korkidas, looked set for an easy afternoon when they led 8-0 after just five minutes thanks to tries from Craig Moustakas and Kosta Kouparitsas before the Serbians replied with a try to prop-forward Zoran Pesic.
Winger Peter Vardis crossed for the Titans in the 16th minute but Serbia grabbed the lead with tries to lock-forward Soni Radovanovic and centre Nenad Matejic. Another try from Vardis put Greece ahead 18-14 before Ivan Mitic leveled the scores with a try in the 35th minute. Anesti Karageorgiou, from the Rhodes club in Greece, showed great strength to score in the corner after lead up work from Ray Mavroudis and Michael Karageorgiou.
After being down 22-18 at the break, Serbia leveled the scores just five minutes into the second half when Nenad Grbic showed exceptional pace to score. The latter had the opportunity to put Serbia in front soon after but the final pass went to ground.
Vardis registered two tries in the space of five minutes to bring up a personal tally of four tries with his final effort coming off a majestic pass from Paul Salamakis. Both shots at goal went astray in the windy conditions but the Greeks were ahead on the scoreboard by 30-22.
The home side made sure of the win with two tries in three minutes from David Georgiou, who troubled the Serbian defence all day. His second try saw British Super League referee give Serbian captain Radoslav Novakovic the red card for misconduct. The incident came when he was on the interchange bench.
A great run and pass from Serbian Greek Haris Dajc whose brother Dimitris was playing for Serbia - resulted in a try to Steve Spiliotopoulos in the 73rd minute. Serbia, who have improved greatly in recent years, never gave up trying and finished the game with a consolation try to Radovanovic.
Kouparitsas was the man of the match, providing some damaging runs as well as some punishing defence. He was well supported by Georgiou, Spiliotopoulos, Mavroudis, Salamakis and Vardis. The Karageorgiou brothers were the pick of the locals while Teo Divonis and Petros Petrou matched it with whatever Serbia could thrown at them.
The historic match came on top of the news that the first domestic match was staged three days earlier. Ten Australian-based Greek players linked up with 25 local players to witness the first Rugby League match played on Greek soil.
The Olympus Eels defeated the Attica Tigers 24-16 after leading 12-4 at the break. The Aussie players led the way in the first half, scoring four tries but it was the locals that took control of the second half to register all six tries. A number of plans for the Greek Rugby League have been put into place with a regular domestic competition to commence in 2007.
Greece 44 (Peter Vardis 4, David Georgiou 2, Kosta Kouparitsas, Anesti Karageorgiou, Craig Moustakas, Steve Spiliotopoulos tries; Spiliotopoulos 2 goals) d. Serbia 26 (Soni Radovanovic 2, Ivan Mitic, Nenad Matejic, Nenad Grbic, Zoran Pesic tries; Dalibor Vukanovic goal) at Glyka Nera Football Club.
Referee: Phil Bentham (England). Touch Judges: Kevin Rudd (Scotland), Doug Keen (Austraia). Crowd: 150.